The Dance between Mind and Body
A first Dan Black Belt essay on the importance of meditation in Jinyoung Ssangkum Ryu Haedong Kumdo and the importance of meditation (in the form of Ki-Mu and Kummu) to me.
In the everyday chaos of our hectic world, our minds tend to constantly unconsciously live in the past or future, rather than in the present moment. This tendency creates stress, worry and makes us get out of touch with our feelings and unable to truly enjoy what we are experiencing in the moment. Your focus is stuck on the clouded sky inside of your mind. An unknown author once stated: “The mind and body are not separate. What affects one, affects the other.” To clear the clouded sky of the mind thus does not only benefit the mind itself, but also the body and the way the two work together. The mind and body should always be in balance, because to maintain a healthy body one must first obtain a healthy mind. The first step towards a healthy mind is to train your mind to find a state of stillness, through meditation.
Firstly, we will focus on what meditation is. Meditation is the practice of clearing the mind through mental and physical techniques. Our minds are constantly distracted by our thoughts and we allow the thoughts to fully overtake and distract us. Let’s say the mind is like the sky, as I mentioned above. We can see our thoughts as clouds. They will always be there, making their way across the sky, and we can choose to focus on each one of them until they start to cloud the blue sky and leave it gray and without light. We could also choose to let them simply float by, acknowledging their presence but keeping the focus on the clear blue sky. This is what you want to achieve by meditating. Taking away these distractions and being present in the now, with a clear mind, allows you to get more in touch with your body and what it is doing and feeling. You allow your body to feel the energy flowing and to follow that flow, rather than to question what you are feeling and what you should do with that feeling. As rational beings with very busy minds, we tend to question everything. If we let go of this and let the thoughts float by, we can create this oasis of stillness in which we can be led by the energy in and around us.
Besides the mental aspect of meditation, there is also the physical one. By integrating movement and breathing techniques into your meditation, you practice the stillness of the mind in combination with feeling the energy in and around you through your movements. Relax and feel the energy! To connect the body and the mind, you incorporate breathing exercises into the meditation. Your mind will first need to focus on your body during these exercises, and make sure to breathe in and breathe out at certain moments. After this, the body will take over and you will feel where it is right to breathe in and where to breathe out. The combination of the mental and physical part of your meditation will bring you to a state of simply being and feeling what is happening in and around you.
In our Haedong Kumdo training, we always start and end with a short moment for meditation, which we call Muk Nyum. By taking a short moment to meditate at the start of the training session, you allow yourself to relax, gather your breathing, leave the distractions of the world outside behind you before starting to train and bring the focus to yourself. Taking away all distractions makes the mind sharp and focussed and this is the optimal state to start your training. When we end the training, you use this moment to process all you have learned, gather your breath, leave any frustrations behind and once more relax and focus on being in the present moment before leaving the dojang and going back out into the world.
Before starting my martial arts journey, I took dance classes for many years. Music has always been an important factor in my life, as it is one of my biggest sources of relaxation. If you allow it to, your body will naturally follow the flow of the music. When learning a new dance choreography, you will first have to put your mind and body to work to copy the movements and learn the sequences. You will probably have to think hard to remember each move and the timing of them at first. After a little bit of practice, you start feeling the way each move flows into the other and your body and mind start to work together naturally. This is when dance becomes a form of movement meditation to me, as my mind finds calmness and my body just follows the flow of one move into the other to the music.
This same feeling that I found while dancing, I have now found in Ki-Mu and Kummu and this is what makes them the most important (and my favorite!) part of Jinyoung Ssangkum Ryu to me. As I see it, Ki-Mu and Kummu are inextricably linked to one another. Ki-Mu is a form of meditation in movement that brings together the practices of meditation that I have mentioned earlier in this essay of calming the mind, allowing the body to feel the energy through movement and bringing the body and mind together through breathing. Connecting between the mind and the body, the mental and the physical and ultimately causing the full relaxation of the mind and body.
“Sword follows the body, body follows the mind, mind follows the energy of nature.”
– Grandmaster Kim Jeong Seong
I view Kummu as a form of meditation as well, in the same way as I see dancing as such. Your mind is still and fully focused on the body only. It visualizes the movements and your body performs them. The quote mentioned above by Grandmaster Kim is a good summary of this process. In Kummu, it is important that you allow your mind and body to follow the energy and your sword will then naturally follow your body and thus the flow of the energy, which is what you want to achieve in all of your practices with the sword. The music you perform your Kummu to, helps with the relaxation and calming of the mind in this process.
Personally, I think meditation is a necessary part of our training. It is easy to just train your body for physical strength and forget about the importance of training your mind just as much. I think the mind and body should be in perfect balance to become your true self and reach your full potential. Through meditation, you get in touch with your inner and outer self and you learn how to make the two work together and flow as one. When we add a sword to this equation, it will become one with us, as an extension of the body that simply follows the natural flow of the energy of nature just as mind and body do.